Monday, May 9, 2011

Sudden Fear

“Be not afraid of sudden fear…” (Prov.3:25)

There is a fear that is not occasioned by an obviously fearful phenomenon or event, but by the fact that it comes suddenly, without cause. It’s not something that can be reasoned away, for it lacks all reason. It would be like arguing with a ghost or boxing with a shadow. Solomon called it “sudden fear.” We often refer to it as a panic attack; and the medical world, that must have its own terminology, calls it, General Anxiety Disorder. But if you are one of its 2.4 million suffers, you probably think a more accurate term would be “hell.”

It is interesting that it’s seen twice as often in women than men. I attach no significance to this, except to say that it’s probably something you and I should talk about. I have friends and family who have been plagued by it, at one time or another, with differing symptoms. There are various theories as to its origins, but nothing definite, so that they are unable to do much more than treat the symptoms, usually with drugs that sometimes only add new ones.

The word “panic” literally means fear caused by the horned and hooved Greek god, Pan, who, it was believed, could cause a feeling of sudden fear in humans whenever he wanted. It’s not a new malady, for it’s mentioned in ancient history; nor is it an imaginary one, which should be of some comfort to those who suffer from its ravages and be remembered by those of us who have not experienced it.

Solomon encourages those plagued by these phantom horrors to acknowledge that, in this case, it is not what we fear that hurts us, but rather, the fear itself. He gives no formula or ritual to dispel the demons, but offers a reason why it is an unnecessary fear: “For the Lord shall be thy confidence…” (v.26). To put confidence anywhere else is to apply a band-aid on a gaping wound; it will not hold for long. The words are not given as a cure-all; they’re simply a fact. They are not some kind of mantra to chant, but a truth for faith to lay hold of. I sounds simple, I know, but I am also aware that the laying-hold-of may seem just out of reach to many. Here I defer to the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do: change what is real into reality.

I offer these few words to those of you who I know live with these fears and anxieties, as well as others of you of whom I am not aware. They do not come from a scientific mind but from a sympathetic heart. God says to us, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer.31:3); and the New Testament tells us, “There is no fear in love” (1Jno.4:18). It’s not our love for God that makes the difference; it’s the realization, by faith, of God’s eternal love for us that has the power to banish all our fears…even the sudden ones. For the unforeseen dread that squeezes our lungs, races our hearts, and threatens our emotional stability, there is a quiet peace available in the arms of our loving Heavenly Father.

My prayer is that these words may light up the dark corners in someone’s life today. Maybe yours.

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